Look Around: The Costs of Not Acting on Climate Are Adding Up Fast

From major hurricanes and flooding to droughts and fires, the refusal to accept the science of global warming is getting very expensive.

— by Common Dreams staff

The La Tuna fire that raged in Los Angeles over the weekend was the largest ever seen in the city. Wildfires in California have been tied to the effects of climate change. (Photo: @climatesignals/Twitter)

As Houston begins a recovery from Hurricane Harvey that is likely to last several years and cost many billions of dollars, the threat of extreme weather events around the country and the globe are illustrating the impact of climate change—and the damage being done by right-wing politicians including President Donald Trump who have refused to heed repeated warnings from scientists and other experts.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben summed up the current state of affairs in a number of major U.S. cities, juxtaposed with Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that the damage done to the country’s fourth-largest city could cost the government $180 billion—more than Hurricane Katrina cost in 2005. Aside from rebuilding costs, Houston-area residents may pay in other ways as well: as Common Dreams reported, the Center for Biological Diversity finds that “Oil refineries and chemical plants across the Texas Gulf coast released more than 1 million pounds of dangerous air pollutants in the week after Harvey struck.

On Monday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said there is an “increasing chance” that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts” from the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Irma, and that “rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week.”

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend fighting what Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the largest fire in the history of” the city, covering about 7,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The wildfire, known as the La Tuna fire, broke out amid temperatures in the hundreds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that climate change is “fueling the frequency of wildfires” throughout the state in recent years.

As Andy Rowell, writing for Oil Change Internationalwrote in a column on Monday, Harvey’s damage in Houston and across the region “should also be a wake-up call to the climate-denying president that unless he acts on climate, there will be more Harveys.”

Rowell continues:

It is a wake-up call to the media to accurately report the disaster, including how climate change fuelled its intensity. It is also a wake-up call to the oil industry in so many, many ways.

On a national and international level it shows how our continuing dependence on fossil fuels will drive more extreme weather events. On a regional level it shows how ill-prepared the fossil fuel industry—and wider petrochemical industry—were to an event like this, despite decades of warnings.

Instead the fossil fuel industry’s complacency, malaise, self-regulation and capture of the political system are all to blame too. They have led to a system of peril.

Writing for Common Dreams on Monday, Randall Amster refers to it as the “new normal of destabilization”—a world in which climate-related disasters are happening more often and with escalating costs.

“In just the past week,” he writes, “we’ve seen record-breaking rainfall and wildfires plague parts of the United States. Globally, such extreme events appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude. Droughts, floods, fires, and more can be seen as warning signs of impending ecosystem collapse at the planetary scale, with impacts felt in locales and regions around the world. While no single event may be able to draw a causal line directly from climate change, the cumulative correlation indicates escalating destabilization.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his cabinet remain reluctant to discuss the causes of disasters like Harvey as they strike. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declared it was “misplaced” to discuss the storm’s link to climate change last week.

But that view was specifically countered by journalist Naomi Klein who said that it is in the midst of these climate-related disasters when the conversation about global warming and its impacts is most important.

“Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they’re playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines,” argued Klein at The Intercept. “In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”


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‘Sheer Reckless Folly’: Trump Destroys Obama-Era Climate Rules

“Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump’s effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions”
— by Nika Knight, staff writer at CommonDreams

Smog envelopes the Salt Lake City skyline in November 2016. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/cc)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday set about aggressively dismantling Obama-era climate policies with an executive order decried as “sheer reckless folly,” which will increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the climate crisis.

“Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump’s effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions,” said David J. Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program, in a statement.

“This day may be remembered as a low point in human history—a time when the world’s preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe,” Arkush added.

The order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would have limited the emissions of coal-powered power plants. It also lifts the moratorium on federal coal leasing, repeals limits on methane emissions from fracking, and directs the agency to reconsider the Social Cost of Carbon and the National Environmental Policy Act guidance on greenhouse gas emissions.

“The EPA’s rollback of basic environmental rules demonstrates that when it comes to the health of our children, our communities, and our climate, this is an administration of lawlessness and disorder,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of the grassroots sustainability group UPROSE, in statement.

“Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”
—Tom BK Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“For frontline communities, those of us impacted first and worst by the extraction economy, this means an escalation of public health crises, from asthma to cancer. It means an utter disregard for those of us most vulnerable to climate disasters,” Yeampierre added. “It means a world of volatility and exploitation for our children and grandchildren.”

Environmentalists, local and state leaders, and advocacy groups are vowing to resist.

“The best way to fight against these executive orders is to take to the streets,” as 350.org executive director May Boeve put it.

“President Donald Trump tearing apart the CPP is an act of aggression and violence against the sacredness of Mother Earth and Father Sky,” said Tom BK Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, in a statement. “Our indigenous prophecies and teachings tell us that Life as we know it is in danger. The atmosphere and the environment cannot absorb anymore concentration of greenhouse gases. As Indigenous peoples, we still understand our responsibility as guardians and the need to take action as defenders of the Earth. Indigenous peoples will not stand idle as we tell the world the Earth is the source of life to be protected, not merely a resource to be exploited and abused.”

“As a member of the climate justice movement, we stand defiant in the face of these orders and are prepared to hold the line,” Yeampierre said. “We will meet these violent policies with a deeper commitment to a Just Transition away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy, local resiliency, and a regenerative economy worthy of leaving our children.”

The climate movement has numbers on its side, groups observe. “Millions of Americans have called for strong climate action, submitting more than 8 million comments asking the EPA to take action to cut carbon pollution from power plants,” noted Environment America. Recent polling confirms that a vast majority of Americans support climate action.

Moreover, despite the Trump administration’s dubious claims of job creation, the Department of Energy showed that renewable energy jobs have already overtaken fossil fuel industry jobs, and the trend shows no sign of slowing.

As the federal government gives up its role in the climate fight, many now see local and state leaders taking up the charge.

“The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science.”
— Washington Gov. Jay Inslee”

[A]s our most successful climate programs face attack on the federal level, it is incumbent on states to double down on their climate commitments,” Environment America wrote. “We are calling on our governors to keep leading the charge and push the progress we need to tackle the climate crisis and get 100 percent renewable energy.”

West Coast politicians are already uniting under the umbrella of the Pacific Coast Collaborative to battle the federal government’s rightward turn on climate.

“As the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California and the mayors of Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles, we speak today in support of the Clean Power Plan,” the Pacific Coast Collaborative wrote in advance of the executive order. “We speak in unified opposition to the idea of any decision by the President to limit our region’s economic opportunities or our commitment to doing what’s right to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for future generations.”

“The West Coast is going to move forward to beat climate change,” said Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state, according to Northwest Public Radio. “The West Coast going to move forward to build clean energy jobs. The West Coast will be allied with the rest of the world that understands science.”

“It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House.” — David J. Arkush, Public Citizen

“Many states and cities in the West will continue to lead on clean energy because it makes economic sense, and those states that tie their fate to Scott Pruitt’s doomed strategy of delay and deny face an increasingly risky future,” said Bill Corcoran, Western campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

And despite the frightening actions of the Trump administration, states and cities are already taking strong action to fight climate change. California last week passed the nation’s strictest methane regulations, and on Monday the Maryland state senate passed a statewide fracking ban. Maryland’s Republican governor has already signaled his support for the ban.

People nationwide are also ready to rise up and march for climate justice.

“Even as Trump dismantles environmental protections to shore up the fossil fuel industry, support for action to stop global warming is at an all-time high,” said 350.org’s Boeve. “Now it’s up to communities to bring our vision of a healthy climate and a just transition to renewable energy to life.”

Those who support climate action and oppose Trump’s fossil fuel-friendly administration will gather for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C., on April 29, as well as the March for Science in D.C. and elsewhere on April 22.

“From the upcoming congressional recess through the Peoples Climate March and beyond, we’ll be putting pressure on lawmakers to defend the climate and building power to stop the fossil fuel industry for good,” Boeve said.

“Now is the time to come together and build an economy where investments are made to benefit workers, communities of color, women, and low-income folks, not the fossil fuel industry,” said Rae Breaux, lead climate justice organizer for the People’s Action Institute, in a statement.

Public Citizen’s Arkush added: “It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House.”


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Dear So-Called President Trump: Where’s My Protest Paycheck?

— by Peter Dreier

The author, with his twenty-year-old daughter Sarah, marching against the Trump agenda on Saturday, January 21, 2017 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Courtesy of Peter Dreier)

Dear So-Called President Trump:

I was among the roughly five million Americans who took to the streets in cities across the country a few weeks ago in opposition to your outrageous policies regarding women, Muslims, school children, immigrants, workers, the environment, and people who need health care. (That’s me in the photo above with my 20-year old daughter Sarah). I left my home around 7 am, took the subway from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles, and participated in the demonstration — marching, holding signs, shouting chants, listening to speakers and musicians — until about 4 pm. I got back on the subway and returned to my house around 5 pm. In other words, I spent about 10 hours involved in the protest.

That was the largest one-day protest in American history. A majority of the five million participants (750,000 in LA alone) were protesting for the first time. I didn’t really understand what brought them out to protest on a sunny Saturday when they could have been doing so many other things. But your recent Tweet explained why.

Last week you Tweeted that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Thank you for the reminder. I forgot to pick up my paycheck for protesting. Whomever is paying people to protest left me off the list — or just ripped me off. Since the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, I am owed at least $72.50 for the 10 hours I spent protesting that Saturday. However as of this January 1 the California minimum wage is now $10.50 an hour, so I’m actually owed $105, and even more if the people who are paying people to protest against you abide by overtime rules.

If all five million Americans who protested that day got paid the federal minimum wage, and if people spent an average of five hours protesting, those patriotic rabble-rousers are owed a total of at least $181 million in unpaid protest wages.

I think you’ll agree that putting $181 million in Americans’ pockets is good for the economy. If you will recall the Economics 101 course you probably took at college, that is called an increase in “consumer demand.” Economists also call it the “multiplier effect.” The five million protesters will spend that $181 million in their local economies — boosting sales, revenues, and jobs. So thank you for reminding us that protest is good for the economy.

You will be pleased to know that Americans will continue to protest your policies for the next four years. Not all the protests will be as large as the January 21 women’s march, but the number of Americans who feel compelled to protest against you will certainly grow as you pursue reckless, dangerous and inhumane policies. Every week, in cities, suburbs and small towns across America, people will be in the streets, at town meetings, on college campuses, at their workplaces, at airports, in churches and synagogues, and elsewhere raising their voices in opposition to almost everything you are trying to do.

Let’s take a conservative estimate that every week, on average, 100,000 Americans engage in some kind of local protest over the next four years. Let’s assume that each person spends an average of three hours participating in protest and earns the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That adds up to $452 million during your four years as president — assuming you are not impeached.

Of course, you won’t be surprised that in addition to all those local protests, at least four times a year, Americans will mount the kind of major nationwide protests that we saw a few weeks ago, with five million people taking to the streets. So let’s add another $181 million for each protest — four times a year, for four years. This will increase the protest payroll by another $2.9 billion. Altogether, that’s $3.42 billion in protest paychecks over four years. I haven’t even factored in the higher minimum wage levels in many states and cities.

You are already doing your part by adopting policies and making statements that make Americans so angry that they are joining protests in record numbers. But if you’d really like to do something to improve the economy even more, you could raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour. That would quickly and dramatically increase America’s protest payroll and be a real boost the economy.

I realize that it is selfish of me to bring this up, but what about all the back pay I’m owed for the protests I’ve participated in since the 1960s? I’ve been to hundreds of protests for civil rights, against the Vietnam war, for women’s rights and against apartheid, for more funding for public schools, against the U.S. overthrow of Chile’s president Salvador Allende and against U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras, against police killing of unarmed Black Americans, in favor of workers’ rights, and against government bail-outs to Wall Street banks.

As you can see in the above photographs, I brought my twin daughters Amelia and Sarah to a protest in Los Angeles in 2002 against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and I joined with my wife Terry, our dog Mia, and our friends last year at a huge march of workers and supporters demanding a $15 minimum wage in my hometown of Pasadena. (You’ll be please know that we won that fight). On a rainy night two weeks ago I joined about 150 people at a protest in front of the $26 million Los Angeles mansion owned by Steve Mnuchin, the Wall Street predator (known as the “foreclosure king”) who was your campaign finance chair and whom you’ve nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. (That’s me, with the gray hair, behind the sign).

Shouldn’t the hundreds of millions of Americans who, over the years, sat in at lunch counters, participated in strikes, carried picket signs for reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, rallied against nuclear weapons, and shouted “no justice, no peace” and “end racism” get paid for their protest activism? Rep. John Lewis, who put his body on the line hundreds of times for social justice — and whom you described as “all talk, no action” in a twitter tantrum last month — would be owed a fortune in back protest pay.

Do you think we could find a “so-called” judge who would be sympathetic to this wage-theft cause and order the owners of Protest Inc. to compensate us for our labor?

I don’t consider this reparations for radicals and reformers. I see it as the kind of economic nationalism you’ve been talking about. You can’t export protest jobs. These are Americans jobs for Americans. As any economist could tell you, those back payments would do wonders for the economy.

Just as George W. Bush was known as the “war president,” and Barack Obama was known (at least by Republicans) as the “food stamp president,” you will surely go down in history as the “protest president.” You’ve done more than any other U.S. president to unite Americans and galvanize them into an oppositional protest movement. You’ve called us “paid protesters.” Once we all get paid, we will feel proud to have helped make America great again.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (Nation Books, 2012). His other books include: Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century (University Press of Kansas, 3rd edition, 2014), and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City (University of California Press, revised 2006). He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, Common Dreams, The Nation, and Huffington Post.

Congress’s Repeal of Obama Methane Rule Will Cost Taxpayers Hundreds of Millions

Repealing the methane rule will waste $330 million in taxpayer-owned natural gas and cost “all of us” in terms of direct payments to the public, increase in greenhouse gases, climate and air quality.

A gas flare is seen at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. CREDIT: AP Photo/Matthew Brown

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to pass a resolution to undo a measure that would cut air pollution, prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars, and curb climate change-causing pollution.

The Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste prevention rule aims to limit venting, flaring, and leaking of methane — the main component in natural gas — from oil and gas operations on public lands. The House is seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the rule, in what many see as a continued escalation of the most significant congressional attack on environmental rules and standards in American history.

Repealing the rule is expected to result in the waste of $330 million in taxpayer-owned gas annually, and reduce direct payments to the public by $800 million over the next decade, analysis shows.

“Those in Congress working to overturn guidelines that will reduce methane pollution would be taking money away from American taxpayers and removing protections for Americans’ health and the environment,” Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said in a statement.

“More than $1.5 billion in natural gas has been pointlessly burned and sent into the air since 2013,” Williams said. “It defies common sense for Congress to allow companies to waste our resources and ditch basic safeguards limiting the release of harmful methane pollution.”

Between 2009 and 2015, oil and gas producers on public and Indian lands vented, flared, or leaked an estimated 462 billion cubic feet of natural gas. An ICF International report calculated the value of the lost federal and tribal natural gas resources at an estimated $330 million per year.

In addition, a report by the Western Values Project found that without the rule, taxpayers could conservatively lose almost $800 million in royalties over the next decade from the venting and flaring of natural gas on public lands. These revenues are crucial tax dollars that fund local governments, education programs, and infrastructure projects.

Repeal of the rule could also have significant consequences for public health. When natural gas leaks during production, methane and toxic air pollutants like benzene and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released. By reducing venting and flaring, the rule was expected to reduce VOC emissions by 250,000 to 267,000 tons per year as well. VOC’s are a precursor to ground level ozone, which poses a real threat to children who suffer from asthma and can affect Americans’ daily lives. Nationally, there are more than 750,000 summertime asthma attacks in children under the age of 18 due to ozone smog resulting from oil and gas pollution.

“The Methane Rule will reduce hazardous air pollutants that damage the health of local communities by contributing to increased smog, asthma attacks, and other respiratory ailments,” Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, wrote in a letter to members of the House. “Methane pollution is also a potent greenhouse gas, and the rule is an important step in reducing our contributions to a changing climate that threatens our health, communities, ecosystems, economy, security, and way of life.”

As a greenhouse gas, methane traps 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. BLM estimates that the methane waste prevention rule could avoid an estimated 164,000 to 169,000 tons of methane emissions per year — a reduction of about 35 percent, equivalent to eliminating the emissions of at least 924,000 vehicles.

BLM received over 300,000 comments on the rule. which is supported by a wide range of stakeholders, including conservation groups, sportsmen and women, tribal leaders, western congressional delegations, and consumer watchdog groups.

But, the oil and gas industry has long fought against this rule as being “unnecessary” and lacking real benefits. According to a report from Public Citizen, oil and gas opponents of the rule spent over $130 million to influence Congress in the past year.

“Opposition to a particular government regulation should not mean overlooking potential waste, fraud, and abuse at the expense of taxpayers,” said Ryan Alexander, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense in an op-ed. “The oil and gas industry argues that companies, not the BLM, should decide when to pay a royalty on gas that is lost during drilling. Taxpayers own this resource, and it is insulting and irresponsible that we would defer to the oil and gas industry to tell us when it will pay for it.”

The House is using a rare measure to repeal this rule called the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to revoke rules issued by the executive branch within 60 legislative days of their finalization. Before this month, only one rule had ever been overturned using the CRA — a workplace safety rule that was implemented in 2000 by the Clinton Administration and overturned in 2001.

“We applaud the House of Representatives’ attention to this important matter and ask that all members of the House support this resolution when it is considered on the floor,” American Petroleum Institute president Jack Gerrard wrote in a letter to Congress. “We know that the exploration and production of federal oil and natural gas will further enhance U.S. economic and national security, and that a forward-thinking energy policy that prioritizes and grows federal production will benefit all Americans.”

CRA resolutions cannot be filibustered and require only a simple majority to pass in both chambers. If a rule is disapproved using the Congressional Review Act, a “substantially similar” rule cannot be issued unless Congress passes new legislation.


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#Rexxon ‘not aware’ of the existence of fossil fuel subsidies

But independent analysis suggests that Exxon gets as much as $1 billion in oil and gas subsidies.

Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing to become the Secretary of State. CREDIT: Patsy Lynch/MediaPunch/IPX

During former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State on Wednesday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) wanted to know how, if confirmed, the former oil executive would work to fulfill a 2009 G20 pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.

“I’m not aware of anything the fossil fuel industry gets that I would characterize as a subsidy,” Tillerson responded. “Rather it’s simply the application of the tax code broadly, tax code that broadly applies to all industry.”

CREDIT: C-SPAN/YouTube

But environmental groups argue that Tillerson’s statements are misleading at best, noting fossil fuel companies like Exxon receive significant benefits from parts of the tax code that apply only to them — and no other industry.

“Rex Tillerson lied under oath today,” Alex Doukas, a senior campaigner with Oil Change International, told ThinkProgress. “Oil, gas, and coal corporations receive big subsidies in the U.S, and definitions used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the International Energy Agency, and the International Monetary Fund would all agree on that point,” he said, adding that “these are hardly radically progressive organizations.”

According to analysis by Oil Change International — a research group focused on understanding the true costs of fossil fuels — Exxon receives anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion in government subsidies each year.

Those subsidies are doled out in a number of ways, which are perhaps best highlighted in a 2015 U.S. self-review, submitted to the G20, of the country’s fossil fuel subsidies. Subsidies can come from things like tax breaks, such as deductions for the “intangible drilling costs” or an oil and gas operation, or deductions for manufacturing fossil fuels domestically. They can also come from provisions that allow fossil fuel companies to set aside the costs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures. Under the current tax code, mining companies may deduct 70 percent of domestic exploration and development costs.

The 2015 U.S. review states that there are currently 16 federal fossil fuel production tax provisions that apply only to producers of fossil fuels, and no other industry.

As Exxon CEO, it’s likely Tillerson knew about these tax deductions available to the oil and gas industry, and knew the extent to which Exxon was taking advantage of them. As a company, Exxon has spent millions on lobbying related to fossil fuel subsidies — in 2012, they were the leading force on lobbying surrounding the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act, which would have repealed several tax breaks for five big oil companies, including Exxon. In 2016, they were the only company to register a lobbying presence with regards to the FAIR Energy Policy Act, which would have also ended certain big tax preferences for fossil fuel companies.

Under Tillerson, Exxon’s political spending greatly increased, growing from a little over $700,000 in 2004 to $1.5 million in 2016. And, according to OpenSecrets, each year, around 90 percent of that money went to Republican candidates, the same candidates more likely to vote against ending fossil fuel subsidies (in 2012, for example, only two Republican senators voted for the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act).

During Wednesday’s hearing, Tillerson made it clear that he would not support the G20 pledge to revoke fossil fuel subsidies as Secretary of State — a position he shares with President-elect Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called for an increase in fossil fuel production domestically.

“I think as the president-elect has made clear in his views, in his whole objective of his campaign, of putting America first, that he is not going to support anything that would put U.S. industry in any particular sector at a disadvantage to its competitors outside of the U.S., whether it’s automobile manufacturing or steel making or the oil and gas industry,” Tillerson said.

That’s not exactly true, however. Trump has promised to end federal funding for renewable energy development, a decision that would make U.S. industries like solar and wind much less competitive compared to international producers. China, for instance, recently announced that it plans to invest $360 billion in clean energy — a move that would create 13 million jobs by 2020. China already has over 40 percent of all jobs in renewables, globally. The U.S., meanwhile, claims just under 10 percent of the global renewable job share.


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Recology Jungo Dump Conditional Use Permit “Expired” on Dec. 7th

— by Steven Dick and Tracy Austin

We’re delighted to announce that the conditional use permit (CUP) extension Recology fought so hard for, and even took the county to court over (and won), expired on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, after 5 long frustrating years.

The Jungo dump is no more.

To be honest about it, this is not a great victory for NAG (Nevadans Against Garbage) or the citizens of Humboldt County.

Granted, we all made a lot of noise, gave of our time, money and skills making our views known. We all deserve great credit for that. Thank you each and every one.  Recology out-spent, out-lawyered and threatened Humboldt County. There would have been a dump out along Jungo Road had it not been for the self-inflicted wounds and subsequent implosion of Recology itself.  Not only did they fail to live up to the terms of the CUP, the details of which are buried somewhere on our Nevadans Against Garbage website, but they never secured a lease or ownership of the land for their proposed dump site. But it didn’t end there.  Recology wasn’t even able to secure a single solitary contract to haul California garbage into Nevada from California.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  1. Pay attention to what is happening in our community 
    Read and investigate Humboldt County Commissioners (HCC) and Regional Planning Commission (RPC) agendas. Show up at commission meetings and participate whenever possible. Get to know your representatives and ask questions. The fight against Recology’s proposed Landfill started AFTER the RPC had approved a very weak conditional use permit (CUP) that did not require even a “basic” environmental impact statement or other items not covered by Nevada law
  2. Demand accountability from Commissioners
    Speak up during “public comment periods” raising questions as to whether the HCC and RPC are following up to ensure CUP requirements are being met.  Demand that actions be taken when there is evidence some entity is not following through in implementing requirements.  We cannot allow entities coming into our county to bully and sue. Require your District Attorney to support the efforts.
  3. Be aware that the State of Nevada has some fairly lax environmental regulations and if President-Elect Trump’s candidate to lead the EPA is confirmed, the same could prove to be true across our entire nation 
    Compared to regulations in surrounding states, our lax regulations could be an invitation for polluting businesses and industries to locate here. Nevada can be a pretty “cheap date.”  If you care about our land, air and water, then you’ll need to be vigilant. Remember, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) did not require an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Jungo Landfill CUP. California, on the other hand, did require an EIS on the rail route between San Francisco and the Recology Yuba County Landfill.
  4. NDEP isn’t always the “end all” of everything environmental. 
    For example. no consideration was undertaken as to which direction the wind blows off Jungo Road or who it is/was who owned the land Recology wanted to build their dump on. Who owns the land and thus who would be held accountable for issues down the road should problems express themselves are extremely important considerations that weren’t effectively addressed upfront before approving the CUP.
  5. It takes money, strong environmental policies, hired experts, committed citizens and elected/appointed leaders over periods of multiple years to stop deep-pocketed companies intent on getting their way
    In the meantime, their activities can and do seriously harm our fragile desert environment and ecosystems. Inconsistency in any of these areas can be detrimental and inhibit effective recovery.
  6. Petition local governmental agencies to make better use of social media.
    HCC meetings are conducted during the workday when many members of the community are at work themselves.  RPC meetings generally are held once monthly at 5:30 pm on the second Thursday to consider various land use applications.  As many from the mining community don’t get back into town until 6:30 pm or later, most if not all of the RPC meeting has already been addressed before they could arrive.  Agendas (and meeting packets as appropriate) for various board and commissions are posted, but utilizing various social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn at a minimum) would enhance the ability of citizens to follow activities
  7. Demand that links to the “Agenda Packets” for public meetings be included on the County’s Agenda Page
    Currently, the inclusion of packet information to be considered (for upcoming meetings) or that was considered (at previously held meetings) are sporadic at best.  Packets were made available to the commissioners/board members and should also be available to the public at large.
  8. Currently, one can only subscribe to the Agenda/Minutes RSS feeds using an RSS Reader.
    Demand that County Boards/Commissions set up a process whereby citizens can “subscribe” to receive email agendas, minutes, packets.

Throughout the activities with associated with the proposed dump, there have been some encouraging things that occurred. Who could have predicted overflowing commission meetings? Similarly, who would have anticipated picketing at the courthouse and lots of letters to the editor? An unwanted mega-dump motivated people to become more involved in their community. Time and the natural flow of events were probably the main factors, but the dump undoubtedly helped. Since the CUP’s original approval, the makeup of the HCC and the RPC has changed. In fact, as of this writing, women now head these bodies. Hopefully, going forward more people will become actively involved and maybe even volunteer to serve on the RPC or run for election to the HCC.

Steve (NAG website) and Tracy (FB and twitter), are kind of the last two standing from when Tami, Annie and Lianne raised the issue. There have been many of you working on this issue and planting sign after sign after sign.  Your efforts to improve our community are greatly appreciated. We cannot thank you enough.   You know who you are, and we will be happy to work with you again should the opportunity arise.

Study: Protected Forests on Public Land Burn Less Severely Than Logged Areas

biodivesrity_logoA new study published in the scientific journal Ecosphere finds that public forests that are protected from logging burn less severely than logged forests. The study is the most comprehensive investigation of its kind, spanning more than 23 million acres and examining three decades’ of forest fire data in the West. Among the major findings were that areas undisturbed by logging experienced significantly less intensive fire compared with areas that have been logged.

The findings come as many federal land managers and members of Congress claim that more logging will reduce wildfires. Several bills have been introduced in Congress to increase logging on vast areas of public land; these have typically been presented under the guise of addressing forest fire concerns, but eliminate most analysis of environmental impacts and reduce environmental protections.

“We were surprised to see how significant the differences were between protected areas managed for biodiversity and unprotected areas, which our data show burned more severely,” said lead author Curtis Bradley, with the Center for Biological Diversity.

For this study scientists set out to determine whether reduced forest protections and increased logging are associated with lower fire severity. They analyzed fires that burned in pine and mixed-conifer forests starting about 30 years ago, at the earliest point for which comprehensive data were available, to compare where and how fires burned using satellite imagery and maps from the U.S. Geological Survey’s “protected areas database.” The results demonstrated that fires burned relatively cooler in areas managed for biodiversity (Gap 1 in figure below), including national parks and wilderness areas where fires are generally allowed to proceed naturally versus areas managed for multiple use (Gap 3) and areas with little to no mandate for protection (Gap 4) such as private forest lands managed for timber production.

The study focused on forests with relatively frequent fire regimes, ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forest types; used multiple statistical models; and accounted for effects of climate, topography and regional differences to ensure the findings were robust.

“The belief that restrictions on logging have increased fire severity did not bear out in the study,” said Dr. Chad Hanson, an ecologist with the John Muir Project. “In fact, the findings suggest the opposite. The most intense fires are occurring on private forest lands, while lands with little to no logging experience fires with relatively lower intensity.”

“Our findings demonstrate that increased logging may actually increase fire severity,” said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist of Geos Institute. “Instead, decision-makers concerned about fire should target proven fire-risk reduction measures nearest homes and keep firefighters out of harm’s way by focusing fire suppression actions near towns, not in the back country.”

The authors noted that even in protected forests they found an appropriate mix of low, moderate and high-intensity fire, which is ecologically beneficial since many wildlife species depend on post-fire habitat, especially “snag forest habitat” created by patches of high-intensity fire. Many studies indicate that significant damage to wildlife habitat can result from logging of both unburned mature forests and snag-forest habitat.

Location of fires >1,000 acres in pine and mixed-conifer forests with relatively frequent fire regimes in eco-regions of western United States from 1984 to 2014.

Forests with the highest level of protection (GAP 1 and 2) had the lowest levels of high severity fire — results are shown for 3 statistical models examined.


At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature – to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Time to Deal with Climate Change is Right Now

ChipEvans01— By Chip Evans, Candidate for U.S. Representative to Congress representing NV-CD2

The time is now for climate change deniers to follow or get out of the way.

As a state, Nevada must fully embrace the ongoing national movement towards clean, sustainable, renewable energy and start a rapid transition away from fossil fuel energy to a job-creating green economy.

So what are some smart things to do?

Step one: Focus on job creation first.

From my days as the founding director of the Cleantech Open in Nevada, I am aware of many technologies that are market-ready or in development to make, store and discharge energy sourced from a multitude of sources. Each of these technologies creates a clear opportunity to create good-paying green jobs. Our Northern Nevada unions already have extensive training programs underway or at the ready to get workers up to speed and job-ready in a short period.

Step two: Facilitate growth of our newly-arriving technology companies.

We must invest in and develop a high-speed data highway to all corners of Nevada. This data highway would make our existing businesses more competitive and help Northern Nevada attract new businesses. It would also help repopulate the downtowns of our rural communities.

Creating this rapid data highway will require a public/private partnership. The private sector alone cannot handle the upfront expense for a still-small customer base.

We have compelling examples of successful public/private partnerships with the development and construction of the national highway system back in the ’50s and the national electric grid even earlier than that.

Step three: Remove roadblocks and monopolies to open up energy-choice/independence.

Another key ingredient of progress will be untethering consumers from current independent energy-related constraints and a return to both accommodation and incentives to lessen reliance on grid-provided power.

Removing energy monopolies would result in greater competition, leading to good-paying jobs. It also has the added benefit of lessening the need for large coal-fired or nuclear power plants – a great outcome for our environment and the people of Nevada.

This November, we must consider the cost of our votes. We must consider whether or not it’s worth it to elect anyone who represents climate deniers and the status quo, or someone with new energy, fresh ideas and is willing to shake things up.

It’s time we accept the facts: Climate change is here. Climate change is real. Combating climate change, now, will be good for our economy.

Whether it’s in Nevada or any other state, we need to work together to get stuff done and create more green energy platforms, and move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

Our planet, our humanity and our economy depend on our collective actions.

Melting Permafrost Releases Deadly, Long-Dormant Anthrax in Siberia

“This week’s anthrax outbreak signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape”
— by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The cause of the anthrax outbreak could have been infected human remains from a local Nenets burial ground. (Photo: Siberian Times)

A Russian heatwave has activated long-dormant anthrax bacteria in Siberia, sickening at least 13 people and killing one boy and more than 2,300 reindeer.

According to the Siberian Times on Monday:

A total of 72 people are now in hospital, a rise of 32 since Friday, under close observation amid fears of a major outbreak. 41 of those hospitalized are children as Russia copes with a full scale health emergency above the polar circle which has also killed thousands of reindeer.

A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia, and reindeer herding communities have been quarantined.

While NBC News last week pinned the blame for the outbreak on “[t]he carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago,” new reports suggest an old burial ground could be the source.

Nadezhda Noskova, press secretary of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region government, told the Siberian Times:

We are working out all the versions of what has happened. The first version is that due to the very hot weather permafrost thawed and bared the carcass of an animal which died from anthrax long ago.

The other version is that it could have been a human body. The point is that Nenets and Khanty peoples do not bury their dead in the ground.

They put them into the wooden coffins—they resemble boxes—and place them on a stand or hillock.

The old cemetery could be also the source of the disease.

But regardless of the precise culprit, there’s little doubt that climate change is exacerbating the health crisis.

The Washington Post noted last week, “Temperatures have soared in western Russia’s Yamal tundra this summer,” with several regions seeing record heat. Indeed, temperatures in the Yamal tundra above the Arctic Circle have hit highs of 95°F this summer, compared to an average of 77°F.

The Post quoted two Russian researchers, who warned in 2011: “As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th centuries may come back…especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried.”

“The extreme heat has triggered a seemingly endless rash of freak weather, natural disasters, and signs of ecological malaise, including enormous wildfires, record flooding, and natural moon bounces [methane bubbles] that might be explosive,” staff writer Maddie Stone reported at Gizmodo. “But above all else, this week’s anthrax outbreak—the first to hit the region since 1941—signals that global warming is transforming Siberia’s lonely wilderness into a feverish nightmarescape.”

Or, as Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire on Monday, “an anthrax strain that has spent 75 years resting, sleeping a lot, going a few times a week to the Bacteria Gym, and generally muscling up, gets another chance at sickening reindeer and people because the Great Climate Change Hoax has thawed the permafrost, so it gets its shot at the reindeer and people that didn’t die in the record wildfires. I would point out that one of our two major political parties doesn’t believe that any of this is happening, and that the party’s candidate for president thinks it all might be a hoax thought up by the Chinese.”


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Remember the Keystone XL pipeline? We’re ALL being sued!

confused_lIt would have brought a million barrels of toxic tar-sands sludge oil across the length of our nation, through wetlands and communities. President Obama wisely rejected it.

Only now you and other American taxpayers may have to pay for that common-sense decision.

TransCanada is demanding that American taxpayers pay them $15 billion in compensation. They’re using the “investor-state dispute system” that’s in NAFTA – just like the one in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

It allows corporate polluters to attack our environmental and safety laws in private courts stacked in their favor. These companies think protecting clean air and water is a trade barrier. If TPP passes, they will be able to sue any time we manage to pass not just environmental legislation, but anything they believe might hurt their bottom lines. And we’ll be on the hook when they win in their sham corporate-biased dispute system established by the TPP.